Monday, August 24, 2015

The 2015 Ballot Box Question: Who Can I Trust To Do The Right Thing?

The first couple of weeks of the Canadian 2015 General Election are mercifully over and the ballot box question has emerged, largely due to what has happened in the courtroom during the Mike Duffy trial and not by what has been said by the leaders during the campaign.  During the trial, it has become apparent that there was wrong doing by the members of the Prime Minister's staff, an attempted cover up, and the denial by the Prime Minister that he knew what his staff was up to.  Whose version of how the events that unfolded do you believe?

Well, that depends on whether you are a fervent supporter of one of the major political parties.  True blue Conservatives will believe the Prime Minister's version, while the supporters of the Liberals, Greens, and the New Democratic Party (NDP) will decode the received testimony of yet further evidence of the moral vacuum that has been guiding this country for the last ten years.

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But what about those who are not bonded to anyone of the major parties and can vote freely on election day?

I believe that it comes down to: who can you trust to do the right thing?  This operates in two different ways.  On one level, it involves an evaluation of what courses of actions are being proposed by each of the parties, in particular, what actions are being proposed to bring about what results in the fiscal and social spheres.  On an other level, it involves a judgement concerning how each of the parties would govern, which include issues of fairness, respect for all Canadians, transparency, and accountability.

With regard to the policy side, it really comes to what people believe about the role of government.  The Conservatives run on the idea of minimal intervention into the lives of Canadians, small government and low taxes.  The other parties would have a more activist approach, paying for their proposed interventions by increasing taxes on some segment of the society, either the corporate sector or for those who can afford to pay more or both.

Of course, a person's conception of what constitutes the good society and not the appeal of the leaders' hairstyles -- although Justin Trudeau does have the nicest hair -- will sway the vote towards one of the parties.

But where it gets tricky is the question of trust with regard to how the government is run.  Both the long standing ruling parties, the Liberals and the Conservatives, have been plagued with scandals.  The Liberals lost their majority government due to the fallout of the Sponsorship scandal in 2004 and it now appears that the Conservatives will do the same in this general election with the fallout of the Senator Mike Duffy trial: their support is holding at less than 30% in the polls.

Which brings us to the NDP.

They don't have a tainted past in federal politics because they have never governed.  A similar situation existed earlier this year when Albertans, in what we thought was the most conservative province in Canada, voted in the provincial NDP to a majority government, ending  44 years of Progressive Conservative rule.  Looking at the polls, it looks like the NDP could form a minority government since the fear factor of electing an NDP government federally has diminished considerably.

The one thing that could change the existing dynamic is if the financial markets go into a free fall as was the case during the 2008 federal election.  It could happen that Canadians might not want to risk handing the reigns of power to an untried political party to lead the country through the tumultuous economic aftermath of a second financial crisis.  Better the devil you know than the one you don't.

In any case, only time will tell, and this campaign is dragging along at a snail's pace, leaving plenty of time for something exciting to happen. 

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